If you work in leadership or human resources, you are likely very experienced at mediating in-office conflicts. It may not be a particularly fun or comfortable experience, but it is a necessary one. Fortunately, cultivating productive and positive conflict resolution techniques is possible. This in turn will lead to boosted morale and a strong sense of community among employees.
Let your employees know that they can come to management, leadership, or human resources with any conflict they are experiencing. Regardless of what your conflict resolution process looks like, your employees should have a general idea of what to expect when they seek help solving interpersonal conflicts. Integrate your conflict resolution process into your corporate culture, whether you include it in the employee handbook, post signs in the break room or send office-wide emails with updates to the policy.
Act as a neutral third-party
You should never display any type of bias when helping your employees with conflict resolution – not during your investigation, not when writing your report and recommendations, and certainly not when meeting directly with the concerned parties. Your office should be a safe space for your employees to ask for help with conflict resolution, without worrying about judgment, retaliation, or repercussions.
Keep your employees safe
Conflict resolution in the workplace is no small task, especially when an employee has a tendency to escalate situations. Make sure your organization has an emergency plan in place in case you become aware of an employee threatening or otherwise harming a fellow employee. Traditional conflict resolution approaches may not suffice in these types of situations, and everyone’s safety should be the number one goal.
Engage your employees in finding solutions
If an employee has made a complaint, take the time to ask them how they wish the situation to be resolved. If a complaint has been made against another employee, ask them for their view on the situation and potential improvements they see from their perspective. While you may not necessarily implement the solutions proposed by your employees, it is important for each party to feel heard.
Identify realistic solutions
As the employer, your employees will look to you for support when they are experiencing conflict either with their colleagues or with a third-party client, customer, or vendor. You should help identify solutions that can be realistically carried out by all parties and that will truly solve the conflict. If an employee feels another employee does not like them, their suggestion of firing that employee is likely not the best course of action. Take your employees’ suggestions under consideration and offer compromises if necessary.
Understand that some employees may not be open to resolution
Conflict resolution is a two-way street. If one employee does not feel comfortable working with the other on finding solutions, or one does not feel that they have done anything wrong, then you may not be able to take the conflict resolution any further. All parties must be ready and willing to put the conflict behind them in order to successfully move forward.
Take complaints seriously
Act quickly, even when it doesn’t seem like an urgent issue to you. If your employee feels uncomfortable enough to raise the conflict they are experiencing, you should respect that by fully investigating their claim and partnering with them on possible solutions. It is also important to address sources of conflict as quickly as possible to avoid potential escalations in the future.
It takes a lot of courage for an employee to go to their boss or human resources with a conflict with another employee or client. Some employees choose not to report conflicts out of fear of backlash from the other party. On a human level, try to understand how difficult these experiences must be for your employees and respond with care and empathy.
Identify potentially underlying issues
If you have multiple employees coming to you, independently, about a source of conflict, you may have a larger problem within your organization. If, for example, several employees all feel that they are being bullied by the same employee, this could be another situation where traditional conflict resolution procedures are insufficient. Circumstances like these require an individualized approach, and potentially action from the broader company if an employee is facing disciplinary action as a result of too many interpersonal conflicts.
Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP supports employees and employers alike in solving problems in the workplace. Reach out today at 1-800-543-5080 to learn how an EAP can benefit your organization.